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Hope for change

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International visits

I’ve just returned from the United States, where I attended the conference of the American Jewish Committee and was honoured to speak on a panel at the opening plenary. Joining me were our colleagues from the Cape South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD): Chairperson Adrienne Jacobson and Executive Director Daniel Bloch. It was uplifting for us to feel the incredible connection with global Jewry, and see the support and solidarity extended to us at this difficult time. Another highlight for me was the address by Congressman Ritchie Torres, a Democrat whose rock-solid support for Jews through this tumultuous time has been a real beacon of light.

I was asked to focus on our recent elections and its implications for South African Jewry. I spoke about the pride we have in our democracy, and reflected on how the African National Congress’s (ANC’s) performance turned out to be even worse than the worst predictions. In spite of campaigning on a foreign policy platform where the last word to voters by its president was, “From the river to the sea”, a call for the Jewish state to be eradicated, the ANC received a proverbial snotklap. It reinforced what we all know, that its foreign policy antics were simply a distraction from its utter failure to deliver fundamental services to South Africans. Thankfully, the electorate saw right through it. I also spoke about how fortunate we are to experience relatively little antisemitism on the ground in South Africa, and how our amazing community continues to live as proud Jews and Zionists in defiance of the stance of our former government. How the new government of national unity may affect the biased South African foreign policy of recent years cannot, of course, be predicated at this stage.

The new government

The successful brokering, following extensive and complex negotiations, of an agreement by the two main parties and others to form a government of national unity is to be welcomed. That differences were put to one side in the interests of taking the country forward shows maturity on the part of the leaders concerned, and hopefully augurs well for the prospects of the new administration in future.

The new era in South Africa’s political history commenced last Friday, 14 June, with the opening of Parliament. The Jewish community was represented by Tzvi Brivik, the immediate past chairperson of the SAJBD Cape committee. This past Wednesday, 19 June, National President Zev Krengel and I attended the presidential inauguration on the lawns of the iconic Union Buildings in Pretoria. The decision to attend wasn’t straightforward, and we engaged in much debate about our participation. There’s so much hurt and betrayal in our community associated with the president but in the end, we agreed that at this historic juncture in our country’s political history, and with so much unexpected hope in the air, it was important that our community be represented at the event. Part of that hope is that the SAJBD will be able to chart a different relationship with the government.

  • Listen to Charisse Zeifert on Jewish Board Talk, 101.9 ChaiFM, every Friday from 12:00 to 13:00.

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. John teeger

    June 20, 2024 at 1:17 pm

    Karen— I looked for you at the AJC and sorry I missed you —- we in the US also have our hands full —- on all 3 counts of AJCs advocacy, supporting Israel, fighting antisemitism and promoting democracy we are fighting an uphill battle —— we are watching closely the GNU and hope the majority moderate middle will succeed over the back bench extremists —- as in the US the extremist politicians get much of the media attention but do not represent the majority— keep up the great work at Wits and regards to Wendy at JbD

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